Solutions for Phoenix’s billion dollar labor bubble - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Commentary

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Solutions for Phoenix’s billion dollar labor bubble

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 12:00 am

Phoenix, like every level of government in this economy, is facing a huge budget shortfall – about $245 million over two years – which requires either a lot more money or a much different way of doing business.

The former isn’t happening. We must concentrate on the latter – not only because it’s our only reasonable choice, but because the city needs major structural shifts regardless of today’s economy.

The biggest revelation since I’ve returned to the council is that the average cost for all city employees is $100,000 a year, including all benefits. That includes all employees – clerks to managers (the average private sector total compensation in the Phoenix-Mesa area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $54,100 – about half the Phoenix average). For an enterprise the size of Phoenix, with about 14,000 workers, that’s simply unsustainable, which is why we need to look to the private sector to perform some functions less expensively.

Phoenix is facing a billion dollar a year labor bubble.

One step I rule out is raising taxes. A food tax – an idea recently floated – is regressive and hurts the poor and those on fixed incomes the most. Most importantly, it shifts responsibility for solving this money problem from government to you, the public. Phoenix families are hurting enough and have done their share. This problem is our, government’s, responsibility to fix. I recommend three solutions:

• Focus on core responsibilities. Out-source non-core functions.

• Examine departments for greater efficiency and innovation.

• Make Phoenix the best place in the country to do business.


Focus on core responsibilities:

The city’s primary job is to protect citizens and to provide basic services. We must protect functions that protect us. We want cops on the streets, firefighters in the trucks – maybe even more than now. We want water to the homes, and streets and sewers maintained.

I want the city to look at all areas of government that can be done as well or better, and less expensively, in the private sector. With $100,000 average employee costs, Phoenix must look elsewhere to get things done.

Areas could include vehicle repair, printing – even some planning and building approval roles. Advantages of managed competition include competitive bidding, self-preservation innovation, greater pressure for good customer service and less pressure to expand the government work force to meet temporary demand. I would apply the Yellow Pages test – if you can look it up in the phone book, perhaps we should consider if someone other than government might be the best provider.


Greater efficiency and innovation:

We recommended and the council approved departmental efficiency studies, and the city manager appointed an innovation task force to look for savings and better ways to do things. Business people must be on that group as well, and it must be open and transparent.

Outside systems analysis can identify procedural roadblocks and dead ends, eliminate steps and improve the outcome for the customer.


Make Phoenix the best place to do business:

Nothing will fix city budget problems better than good jobs created by a vibrant business community. Private sector jobs create real wealth, not government jobs, so Phoenix must do all it can to attract, maintain and grow good, sustainable jobs. At the very least, we must eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks.

Phoenix recently restructured its business services division, the department that approves business expansions, to make it more efficient and friendly. Within the parameters of protecting safety, the environment and neighborhoods, we must develop a system and reputation that makes companies and entrepreneurs clamor to set up and grow in Phoenix. But we must do more to cut red tape and get people working again.

We can handle this recession one of two ways. We can do everything we’ve done before, only less of it and not as well. Or we do what’s most important better, out-source more to local professionals, and create a city that drives business and jobs. That will give us the system and resources to make sure our neighborhoods and homes are protected and services are delivered efficiently and prudently.

Government created the problem. You, the taxpayer, should not be responsible for the burden. I believe solutions are in finding efficiencies, out-sourcing non-core functions if they can be done better elsewhere and growing private sector jobs by making Phoenix the best place to do business in the country.


Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills, North Central, Arcadia and Biltmore. He can be reached at (602) 262-7491 or

More about

More about

More about

  • Discuss

In AZ, CA, CO, FL, and NV, More Reminders that Mobilization of Latino Voters Could Bolster Democrats, Punish GOP

With less than two weeks until Election Day and with early voting in full swing in a number of key states, there are continued signs of Latino…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:53 am @…

10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (October 26, 2016)

Simon Property raises outlook on improved rents “Simon Property Group Inc. said Wednesday that occupancy and rent rates improved during the la…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:53 am @…

The post-election war for the soul of the GOP is heating up, and it is going to be ugly

While everyone in the media is focused on the Nov. 8 election, many Republicans are already jockeying for positions of party leadership in ant…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:52 am @…

Immigrants And Their Allies Are Trying To Get Sheriff Joe Arpaio Voted Out Of Office

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 8:30amUpdated: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 8:47am downloadPHOENIX - At a parking lot in Central Pho…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:50 am @…

Here’s Why We Sent Our Reporter to Embed With a Militia

W hen Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer signed up to train with a militia group in California last spring, he came equipped with woodland camo…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:23 am @…

New restaurant: Hand Cut Burgers and Chophouse to bring grass-finished burgers, steaks to Scottsdale

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Beginning this week, burger lovers will be able to get their beef fix from a new restaurant in the Valley. Hand Cut Burgers &…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:20 am @…

Marijuana Instead of Wine? The Restaurant World Has ‘Intense’ Interest in Switching Focus

Wine induces thoughts of sophistication, refined palates and complex flavors as critical to food pairing as the very spices used during the co…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:22 am @…

The 17th Annual Fruit Tree Program At Urban Farm Is Going On Now

Nathan Ahles A A From now until November 5, the 17th Annual Fruit Tree Program is providing an opportunity for Valley residents to take home t…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 11:19 am @…

Ballot Bullies: Plastics Lobby Hopes Voters Will Unban Its Bags

When the tiny, picturesque community of Bisbee, Arizona, decided to ban single-use plastic bags in 2014, leaders in the plastics industry worr…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 10:53 am @…

Agency: Brothers nabbed in Arizona in Massachusetts homicide

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - Federal authorities in northern Arizona have arrested two brothers sought in a homicide in the normally quiet western Massachu…

Published: October 26, 2016 - 10:49 am @…

Facebook on Facebook

Twitter on Twitter


Subscribe to via RSS

RSS Feeds


Most Popular

Online poll